Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival launches its full programme for 2015. In his second year as Festival Director, Toby Smith continues a four-year journey tracing the passage of the sun from night to day. Focussing on the glorious Eastern dawn, the arts and culture of the Middle East take centre stage this year. Some of the finest Middle-Eastern artists will bring music, poetry, film and photography inspired by their rich cultural history, as well as the usual variety of brilliantly talented UK artists.
This year’s Festival programme includes events that will ignite everyone’s imagination;
Following the success of last year’s opening choral project, Voices From No Man’s Land, this year’s Festival begins with the greatly anticipated ambitious Festival commission Market Songs. Celebrating the rich history of Salisbury as a market town, it will take place around the city, culminating in a final grand performance in the Market Place.
City Encounters returns for Sunday 24 and Monday 25 May continuing the celebrations of the opening weekend. Last year this newly-created free event was a great success, as exciting street theatre, circus and dance sprung up around the city and an international market of food stalls.
The Festival will transform an everyday city centre space, The Maltings car park, to create a site-specific evening of intrigue featuring music, theatre and dance with Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama. Think ‘CSI Renaissance’ and you are half-way there. It will take place behind police lines in a covered annex of the car park and is devised by I Fagiolini and director John La Bouchardière.
The Festival’s family events see the return of popular theatre company Illyria, a sell-out act last year, with a new show The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Puppetry is a big feature this year with three standout shows from Mimika Theatre, Little Angel Theatre Company and Horse + Bamboo Theatre promising to deliver very entertaining performances for all to enjoy. There will be several children’s literature events as well as an interesting adaptation of the Arabian Nights by Story Pocket Theatre, picking up on the Middle-Eastern theme.
The 2015 Literature programme includes talks with Turkish writer Sema Kaygusuz; food writer Anne Shooter, promoting her new book Sesame & Spice – Baking from the East End to the Middle East; as well as hilarious British-Iranian comic Omid Djalili in conversation about his memoir Hopeful with Daily Telegraph journalist Matt Stadlen. There will also be appearances from John Cleese talking about his best-selling autobiography So Anyway; Alan Johnson MP in conversation about his second memoir, Please Mr Postman; the return of A C Grayling to promote his new collection of essays The Challenge of Things; and an amusing evening in conversation with Rory Bremner.
In addition there will be an extraordinary live poetry/music/theatre/imagery performance of 40 poems which chronicle the atrocities of war, The Hundred Years War: From Verdun to Afghanistan. From the trenches of the Somme to horrors of the Second World War, the Holocaust, the Middle East, Vietnam, Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan; voices of all nations and creeds are represented. The effect promises to be visceral, heart-breaking and thought-provoking.
Salisbury Cathedral once again forms a central part of the Festival, staging a variety of exciting performances including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s production of King John and a bespoke performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The opulent Trafalgar Park will play host to the Eblana String Trio who bring a programme of Beethoven, Dohnanyi and Mozart, while the innovative Re:Sound Music Theatre transform the Cosy Club in Salisbury into a 19th-century Viennese drinking house with their Schubert-related musical docudrama After Party. Finally, theatre company Burn the Curtain will perform an interactive running/walking theatre experience The Company of Wolves at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park.
The Middle-Eastern theme of this year’s Festival is exhibited in the screenings of some of the finest cinema from Iran and Turkey; Mohsen Makhmalbaf introduces his 1996 film A Moment of Innocence and a new documentary about his extraordinary filmmaking family Daddy’s School; there will be a UK premiere of Come To My Voice presented by its Turkish director Hüseyin Karabey and two Cannes Palme d’Or winning films; Abbas Kiarostami’s 1996 triumph Taste of Cherry and 2014 winner Winter Sleep, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
The Festival is positively bursting with some of the most outstanding Middle-Eastern musicians with performances from the majestic internationally renowned Iranian sisters Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat, whose powerful, ethereal vocals have made them one of the most enchanting acts in world music. The powerhouse continues with the talented Mor Karbasi who fuses Jewish folk music with Spanish Flamenco and Moroccan sounds to tell a rich story that promises to leave audiences captivated. Seven-piece band She’koyokh offers a unique, almost bohemian vibe, influenced by their various different heritages.
As always, the Festival offers a diverse mix of other music performances to tempt a range of audiences across Salisbury, from a trademark rich classical programme to fun, more mainstream acts such as human beatbox legend Shlomo and the ever-present Salisbury Live (around the city on each weekend of the Festival).
The circus programme sees the return of highly successful acts Circa, which sold out at the Cathedral in 2013, and Gandini Juggling, who came in 2012. Gandini will be presenting two offerings with a popular music-themed performance for City Encounters and an exciting show that fuses jugglers and ballet dancers in 4×4 at the Salisbury Playhouse.
Six highlight events, released in December, have already generated great interest and enthusiasm for the 2015 Festival, with Elvis Costello: Detour, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: King John and the London Philharmonic Orchestra proving particularly popular.
Festival Friends can book tickets to any of the Festival events from Tuesday 3 March. Booking opens to the general public on Tuesday 10 March. Festival Friends memberships may be bought at any time.
Buy tickets online at salisburyfestival.co.uk or by calling the Box Office on 0845 241 9651.
Festival Director Toby Smith said: “Our starting point this year is the sunrise, continuing a four-year journey tracing the passage of the sun from night to day. Our sun rises on the arts and culture of Middle Eastern lands, offering a rich mix of music of all kinds, words, exhibitions and film. And we begin with Market Songs, a music theatre commission for 400 singers celebrating the 900-year history of Salisbury as a trading city – a coming together that marks the start of two unmissable weeks this summer.”
Francois-Xavier Boisseau, Chief Executive of Ageas Insurance, added: “Ageas is delighted to continue its Principal Sponsorship of the Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival for a further three years. The breadth of artistic excellence on offer at this year’s Festival is exciting and we look forward to sharing the experiences it will bring. We provide Motor, Household, Travel and Business insurance through our partnerships with brokers and distributors including some of the UK’s leading high street brands such as Tesco, John Lewis, Age UK and Virgin Money. The striving for excellence year on year coupled with a track record of delivering consistently high standards for people who attend are the very values that we too aim to achieve in our business.”